If you’ve resolved to spend less and save more this year, you might consider investing in a good pair of running shoes.
Beyond the obvious health benefits of being in shape, losing weight can help you save as much as $US5,000 per year in transportation, insurance, and health-related costs, not to mention the amount you could make by more frequent promotions at work.
According to a study by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, the overall annual cost of being overweight in America — in the form of higher bills, lower salary, and lost wages due to health-related absenteeism — is $524 for women and $432 for men. And being obese is even harder on your wallet, to the tune of $4,879 for women and $US2,646 for men per year.
If you’ve been looking for extra motivation to shed some pounds, check out a few ways slimming down could also save you cash:
1. Lower medical bills
The most obvious place you can cut costs by getting to a healthy weight is your medical bill. According to the GWU study, overweight individuals (defined by the CDC as having a BMI between 25 and 29) spend an additional $US346 per year on direct and indirect medical costs, while the extra burden for obese individuals (BMI over 30) rises to $US807-$2,845 per year.
Where are these extra costs coming from? Mostly in the form of prescription drugs, and the GWU study didn’t include over-the-counter drugs, so the amount is likely even higher. According to the study, overweight and obese individuals tend to be less healthy than their normal-weight peers. They have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer, all of which require more doctors’ visits, pricier health insurance, and more drugs.
A person dealing with type 2 diabetes, for instance, spends an average of $US85,000 to treat the disease and its complications over their lifetimes, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Reversing type 2 diabetes — or at least treating it through a better diet and exercise — can put an immediate dent in your medical bills.
2. Higher income
Being overweight not only costs more, it can also limit the amount you earn, at least if you’re a woman. A 2011 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese women earned an average of $US5,826, or 15%, less per year than normal-weight women, a trend confirmed by the GWU research team. By contrast, the GWU study found that “results for the relationship between body weight and wages for male employees are mixed, but likely insignificant.”
What’s the relationship between body type and salary? Studies have identified several factors at play. Conscious or unconscious biases against overweight employees can influence hiring and promotional decisions that prevent overweight workers from moving as far up the career ladder as normal-weight employees. Obese workers also tend to work fewer days than their normal-weight peers due to poorer health: The GWU study estimates obese and overweight women miss an average of one to five additional work days per year than normal-weight women, while obese men miss two more than normal-weight men. Absenteeism can have a direct impact on hourly salaries, and an accumulation of missed work days can negatively affect an individual’s annual income.
3. Lower fuel and transportation costs
Perhaps surprisingly, additional body weight actually makes a difference in how much fuel your vehicle uses. Matthew de Paula at Forbes explains:
It might seem preposterous that portly passengers could negate the weight savings automakers are achieving [by making lighter vehicles]. But consider that fuel efficiency improves 2% for every 100 pounds shed from a vehicle, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So if a heavyset adult couple — each 50 pounds overweight — loses the extra weight, their fuel economy will go up 2%.
Slimming down won’t just save you money at the pump; it could also save you extra fees (and potential embarrassment) at the airport. While it’s unlikely that charging passengers by weight will become an industry standard, several American airlines have started requiring passengers who cannot buckle their seat belts to buy an additional seat. It’s not quite clear how that extra seat will keep you safer, but regardless, it’s yet another reason to eat your veggies and hop on a treadmill.